If you’re building a new home or making changes to your existing property, one of the very first considerations should be your construction materials.
Brick is one of the oldest building materials in the world.
Throughout the history of construction, we’ve relied on brick. As well as its long history, brick is one of the most economical, eco-friendly and durable ways to build a house.
There are many distinct types of brick, incorporating varied materials, textures, finishes, uses and colours. They each come with specific advantages and disadvantages, aesthetic repercussions and costs.
So, which type of bricks should you choose for your project?
Your choice will make a massive difference to the look and feel of your home, but there’s more to think about than just visual appeal. To help your decision, here’s your essential guide to UK residential bricks.
What are bricks?
There are thousands of variations and categories of bricks. In the simplest terms however, bricks are small rectangular blocks usually made of fired or sun-dried clay, used in the building industry.
A standard UK brick measures 215mm long, 102.5mm wide and 65mm high.
Properly, the term “brick” only applies to blocks made from dried clay. Despite this, it’s also commonly used to refer to other stone or chemically-treated construction blocks.
Clay can also be mixed with materials such as concrete or ash to achieve different finishes and strengths.
What are the benefits of bricks?
Bricks offer a cost-effective, aesthetically appealing and flexible method of construction. Some of the benefits include:
- Energy efficiency: bricks have excellent thermal mass, meaning they slowly absorb and release heat.
- Solidity: bricks provide a feeling of solidity and firmness due to their excellent sound insulation and high compressive strength.
- Durability: bricks resist wear and tear incredibly well, with the ability to release and absorb moisture. This helps regulate humidity levels.
- Variety: bricks come in all manner of materials, sizes, textures, colours and finishes. This gives homeowners a unique opportunity to personalise their build.
What types of bricks are available?
The most common way to categorise bricks is according to the raw material they’re made from. There are five main types of bricks (in addition to specialist reclaimed and handmade bricks) used in the UK. These include:
1. Burnt Clay Bricks
Burnt clay bricks are one of the most common kinds of bricks. They’re formed by pressing clay into a mould, before drying and firing in a kiln.
Clay bricks are generally classified as either first class, second class, third class or fourth class – with implications for their composition and cost.
2. Sand Lime Bricks
Also referred to as “calcium silicate bricks”, sand lime bricks are constructed by mixing lime, fly ash and sand.
Instead of being fired in a kiln, these bricks are moulded under pressure with chemical reactions binding the materials. Advantages include a highly uniform shape and high compressive strength.
3. Engineering Bricks
Engineering bricks are usually clay-based, created with a specific manufacturing process.
They are incredibly durable and strong, hence their widespread use in commercial projects and residential retaining walls. Engineering bricks are also fired at very hot temperatures, further improving their strength and reducing porosity.
4. Fly Ash Bricks
Fly ash refers to the fine solid particles of ash, dust and soot left over from burning fuels such as coal. This unique material is mixed with concrete and clay to form bricks. When mixed with concrete, this creates “self-cementing” bricks due to their ability to expand when exposed to moisture.
Fly ash bricks can be stronger and lighter than purely clay or concrete bricks. They are consequently often used in structural walls and foundations.
5. Concrete Bricks
Concrete bricks are frequently used for internal brickwork. Despite this, they’ve also had a recent resurgence for exterior finishes, contributing to a modern aesthetic.
Concrete bricks are formed by pouring and setting concrete in moulds. Their toughness means they’re used across residential and commercial projects.
6. Handmade and reclaimed bricks.
As well as these main categories, there’s a wide variety of specialised handmade or reclaimed bricks. This option might be necessary if you live in a conservation area.
Artisanal handmade bricks offer flexibility in size, character and texture – with opportunities to create a truly bespoke product. Equally, bricks reclaimed from original buildings (often purchased at reclamation yards) allow for true authenticity. It can be difficult sourcing the quality and quantity required for an entire new build, however.
Expect to pay around four times as much for handmade bricks, compared with “standard” machine-made bricks.
What are the most popular brick colours?
Bricks come in almost as many colour variations as you can think of!
From whites and creams through to orangey reds, blues and brown tones – there’s a spectrum of traditional and contemporary finishes.
Three main factors determine colour:
- The type of clay used to make the brick.
- The type of sand, staining or mineral pigments covering the surface of the brick.
- The firing atmosphere and kiln temperatures reached.
Ceramic coatings can also be added to brick facings, further adding to the colour possibilities.
The most popular UK brick colours are:
- Red and Orange – common in Lincolnshire as well as the Midlands and North England.
- Buff, Creams and Yellows – found around the Cotswolds, London and the South of England.
- Dark Brown and Blue – seen in Staffordshire and across the Midlands.
- Grey – frequently found in industrial construction.
- White – often glazed bricks, used on contemporary builds.
- Black – also often found on more modern builds.
As well as the costs and aesthetics of bricks, it’s important to consider the materials they’re made from, in addition to the colours and finishes found in your area. Bricks are a key aspect assessed by planning officials, so it pays to do your research at an early stage.
With so many options to choose from, selecting the right bricks for your project can feel challenging. With insights into their construction, colours and uses however, you’ll be well on your way to making an informed choice, and building a home from bricks you love.
About EV Architects.
EV Architects is a multidisciplinary Architectural Practice that is located in East London. Originally founded in 2012 by our Senior Architect, Paul Bagnall, the Company provides Architectural, Design, Planning and Build services to Private Residential Customers that are Located Across Greater London and the immediate surrounding areas of East London.
Looking for a trusted experienced and local architect to complete your next property development project?
If the answer is YES, then we’d love to help! Our highly experienced team have successfully completed hundreds of jobs of all types and sizes, including single and double story house extensions, loft conversions, new builds and self builds, plus MUCH more. Visit our portfolio page to checkout some of our more recent work, or call 020 8531 4441 to discuss your requirements with one of our friendly and helpful architects. We look forward to hearing from you.